Right as Ryan: Wild races in September

Ryan Chae, Sports Editor

While I was eating with a group of friends and energetically watching a crucial match between my injured New York Mets and the NL East leading Washington Nationals, one of my friends randomly exclaimed, “Honestly, how can you watch baseball? It’s so boring.”

My first reaction to this was a simple derogative reply of “You’re just boring.” But then the question stuck with me the rest of the night, and in that time, I began remembering what this month meant for the sport. It is the most exciting time of the season other than the postseason: September.

Now to most people, September is just the first month of fall and the month before Halloween. However, in baseball, it means that playoffs are just right around the corner, and the division and wildcard races are intensifying.

This season has been quite exhilarating already. We’ve got Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz in his final year, A-Rod being released by the Yankees, and emerging rookie talents like shortstop Trevor Story and catcher Gary Sanchez. Yet, the main focus is primarily on the playoff teams.

By this time, all the pretenders have been weeded out of the playoff race and all the dominant super teams are set, but the teams in between, known as the wildcard teams, are still fighting to find their places.

Most notably, the AL Race has become a battle for not one team, not two teams, not three teams but between seven teams! That’s right, the Red Sox, the Baltimore Orioles, the Detroit Tigers, the Houston Astros, the New York Yankees, the Kansas City Royals, and the Seattle Mariners  are all apart of this race. With the Mariners being the farthest behind by four games, fans are sure to be looking at the standings and score every night.

What’s even crazier is that most of these teams struggled immensely. The Royals struggled to find their footing after winning the World Series last year. The Yankees were adjusting to the loss of multiple players. The Astros have proved many doubters and me wrong as I believed that they could not catch up from their first half struggles. Now here we are, with seven teams fighting for two spots. The last week of September will be crucial to all of these teams.

Speaking of the wildcard races, the National League is also in a tight race, but the number of teams apart of it is smaller. Although they had a huge lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West before the All-Star Break, the San Francisco Giants have faced their own share of problems as they now are behind the Dodgers in the division and only half a game up for a wildcard spot.

Right now, the Cardinals are behind the Mets by half a game for the second wildcard berth. Over the last decade, the Cardinals have been one of the most consistent teams in baseball and even with their struggles, they could do some damage. The Cardinals have been to the postseason in the last five years, making the World Series three times and winning one in 2011. With their given track record, the Cardinals could easily be a dangerous team in the playoffs. However, my ailing Mets have recently reenergized themselves, taking the wildcard spot from the Cardinals.

At the beginning of the season, the “Miracles” were picked as a top five team with its loaded pitching lineup of nearly five aces and a strong hitting squad. Now, only two of their starting pitchers remain and vital members in the hitting order such as “The Captain” David Wright and Lucas Duda are labeled out for the season. It doesn’t help that one of their most productive players Neil Walker is now out due to back surgery. Other members of the lineup such as superstar Yoenis Cespedes and ace Steven Matz have been going in and out of the DL. Yet here we are with a Mets team living off fumes and holding a playoff spot.

It’s races like these that make baseball not an old, boring sport but one of the most exciting and suspenseful. In basketball and football, you would only see one or two teams fighting for a playoff spot, but in baseball, it’s all fair game. Plus, the team that could barely make it there still has a chance to become this season’s World Series champions.